No, seriously, I’m at the Texas Monthly BBQ festival right now stuffing my face. We dragged these fine people here along with us.
I’ll have a couple of posts about the weekend next week; including, obviously, LOTS of food posts, and a race review of the Run for the Water 5k.
In the meantime, I thought you might like to read a little essay I wrote about my eating-buddy-for-eternity XFE and my efforts to get into the festival last year. Needless to say, we were a whole lot more on the ball this year. We even bought the damn VIP passes.
(Sidenote: XFE and I were watching the season finale of the “Rachel Zoe Project” last week, which featured a backyard party for Team Z. The deadbeat husband Roger said he was “barbecuing,” and XFE piped up to correct him, noting: “That’s not barbecuing, that’s grilling.” I have never been so proud in my entire life. XFE might be more Texan than me at this point.)
Here, without further ado, is my 2010 essay: “No Sauce, No Forks, No Tickets”
We bought our BBQ festival tickets from a scalper. There, I said it, and I’m not ashamed.
Our friendly scalper, Will, showed up at the Hotel San Jose on Sunday morning, wearing one of two Dallas Cowboy shirts we would see him in that day, with a wide open face and two coveted tickets.
We paid more than we wanted —$200 for the pair—and we didn’t even try to haggle. We wanted them that bad. And later that day, with the sweat running ticklish trails down our backs, our lips and chins shining with meat grease, and our bellies painfully distended, we looked at each other and agreed it had been totally worth it.
Please understand: my boyfriend and I are good people. We volunteer, we donate to charity, we, generally, obey the law. It didn’t start out this way, this descent into illegal activity. Let me explain.
I first heard about the BBQ festival in my March issue of Texas Monthly. A transplanted Texan now living outside Washington DC, my Texas Monthly is a lifeline to my roots. We tore out the “save the date” announcement and put it on our fridge. A few weeks later, my boyfriend XFE booked our flights and hotel. The lack of actual festival tickets did not seem so great of a problem to us. We’d get them when they became available. No big deal.
A few months went by with nary a peep on the event. It would come up in conversation once in a while, but nothing beyond speculating about what venue it might be held at, or how much the tickets might be.
Finally, tickets were available. I filled my checkout cart with two. I had my wallet out and was about to purchase when my boss stopped by my cube to shoot the breeze. Now, my boss is not a man of the meat. He’s not a vegetarian or anything, but he’s not spending his weekends perfecting his sauce or fretting over whether to use a mop, a rub or a fork. He would never understand the significance of interrupting me when I was trying to purchase BBQ festival tickets. But he’s my boss, so I didn’t think it would be prudent to blow him off.
My boss and I chit-chatted for maybe 10 minutes – I don’t even know about what. But in that time, my checkout cart had timed out. I tried to checkout again, adding two more tickets to my cart – no dice. It was recommended that I try again later. I did try again later that same day, only to find that the festival was now sold out.
We tried to console ourselves. “It’s ok, we’ll do our own BBQ festival,” or “They probably won’t get all the good places to come out,” and “maybe someone we know got some extras or knows somebody at Texas Monthly.” We monitored Craig’s List and Ebay, but no one was giving up their tickets. I think it says a lot about Texans love of barbecue when they aren’t even willing to make a sizeable profit by selling tickets to a sold out event. Instead, I saw listing after listing titled “WTB,” which I later realized meant “Want to Buy.” Our festival dreams were not looking good.
We got on the plane from DC to Austin with heavy hearts and empty bellies –we planned to do our own barbecue tour when we landed that Friday. We drove to Lockhart, passing fields of cotton and tollway construction, on a hot mid-September day. After eating at two of the three of the holy trinity – Black’s and Smitty’s – we drove to Austin and checked into the San Jose. Neither of us mentioned the festival, but it was hanging as heavy in the air as the smoke that clung to our clothes.
We proceeded to numb the pain with two days of queso and Shiner Bock. We contemplated a Saturday morning trip out to Snow’s in Lexington. We ate Amy’s Ice Cream. Still, the unspoken regret lay heavy between us.
The morning of the festival, we lounged around the hotel room. We had done most of what we wanted to do in Austin – we’d been to Broken Spoke, we’d ordered boots at Allen, we’d watched the UT –Texas Tech game at a bar on 6th Street, we’d had our picture taken with the fiberglass Bevo in the old parking lot at the University of Texas Co-op. But there was still one more thing we wanted to do – the whole reason for the trip – the BBQ festival.
XFE was the one to suggest it, an hour before the event’s start time. Why don’t we check Craig’s List again? Sure enough, there were two people offering to sell tickets – for considerably more than their face value. But, it was the reason for the trip. Will called first.
We saw Will a couple more times that day, mostly when we were resting between multiple tastings. We went to all 19 vendors, starting out eager and hungry, each getting our own servings, savoring each bite, finishing all the meat, washing it down with Shiner after Shiner. We took diligent notes, comparing the crust and smoke of the various places, noting which ones had not quite lived up to the hype and which ones were surprises.
After the 11th plate, we started to slow down, sharing a tasting, maybe skipping a rib here or a side of beans there. The last four spots were really just endurance…..my jaw hurt from chewing. I couldn’t tell the difference between a beef and pork rib anymore, all the sausages began to run together. One of the notes for one of the restaurants on my tasting card says “don’t remember.”
We did not make it till the end of the day. We had to scoot up town to get to Ginny’s Little Longhorn for chicken shit bingo. So, we left before the fan favorites were announced (although, not before texting our own favorite: Louis Mueller’s).
The only question now is: how quick do you think the tickets are going to sell out next year?